Ways Hospital Construction Can Go Green

Building a greener hospital has an environmental impact as well as a positive impact on the patients.

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The idea of a "green" hospital is going to give some germaphobes the heebie-jeebies. They're picturing nurses in hemp pants and doctors wearing vests without shirts, and everybody's hair is long and not tucked into a hygienic net or cap. And the X-ray techs are all singing Crosby, Stills and Nash songs. Phlebotomists might wash their hands (or not) -- it depends on whether it's a new moon tonight.

But that wouldn't be fair to either environmentalists or hospitals. As architect John Messervy, chair of the Healthier Hospitals Initiative, said, "If we commit to hospitals being centers of health for the employees, the patients, and the community, then we need to be setting an example." This example does not include hemp pants, but it does include rooftop gardens, low-VOC paints, public transportation and even hospitals powered by beer. Seriously.

Janet Brown, director of outreach at the Healthier Hospitals Initiative, admitted that "it took me a while to realize that a commitment to the environment is a commitment to people. Building a greener hospital has a definite environmental impact, but also a positive impact for the patient experience."

Put it all together, and what you figure out is that building a healthy hospital helps keep the trees, the birds, the squirrels, the patients, the employees and even the hospital's bottom line healthy, too. And if you like what you read here, Brown and Messervy both encourage consumers of healthcare to pester -- or politely ask -- local hospitals about their green practices and encourage them to step up. Power to the people!